Smoke gets in your…


I’ve spent most of a lifetime being chased around a campfire by smoke. You know the drill, if you’ve spent any time camping at all. You snuggle up to the warmth of your tiny blaze, and then the smoke gets in your eyes. You move, and it follows… Plus, when you get back out of the woods, everything smells of smoke. Everything you eat in camp tastes of smoke, too. 

Which was why when I heard a friend talking about Russian Caravan tea, I was intrigued. Smoke is, for me at least, a sweet nostalgic memory. Also, I do like to smoke meats, and have you ever had a grilled peach (or other fruit, for that matter)? So I’m not a huge tea drinker, and I’ve been managing these last few months on prodigious amounts of coffee, and I tucked the idea in the back of my mind and went on with life. 

Up until the con in September, that is. There was a vendor there selling teas. Twenty or thirty blends of the stuff, and my son had taken the time to talk with the lady and sniff her wares, and then he sent me over to do the same. I bought a tin of the one he’d really liked (a chocolate cherry blend) and I bought myself a blend out of sheer curiosity. Then it took me six weeks and the onset of cooler weather to finally get around to brewing a cup of it. 

Cossack’s Kiss is aggressively smoky. 

The smoke, of course, is from Lapsong Souchong, which I had to look up. This cuppa was like spicy smoke in my mouth, even with the addition of a dab of honey and a dollop of cream. I’m not used to tea being savory. But before I looked it up, I did something odd. I put some in with the pork roast I was pressure-cooking to convert to pulled pork. I was thinking at the time: smoke? Fruits? Spices? Why not? 

Tea blend with dried fruits

I don’t know yet how that’s going to come out, but I was surprised to discover that I’m hardly the first to have that instinct. Lapsong souchong has been used in stocks and as a spice to add smokiness for a long time. I’ll try it again sometime in a little more planned dish. For now? I like the tea. This is tea with personality, it’s got a kick, and you can’t see it lifting a pinky and smiling politely. Nope. Brash swagger and teasing you all the way round and round the campfire! 

It wasn’t cheap, but it’s worth it.

Fortunately, the proprietress has her wares online, so if you’re missing that smoke that gets in your…everywhere, she’s got it. 


7 responses to “Smoke gets in your…”

  1. Very familiar due to my many years in heath food retail. We sold Frontier Coop in bulk and I enjoyed the smells though I dislike beverages in general except water and beer. Gallon of one and a pint of the other a day to keep the doctor away!

    1. I’m not a fan of most beers, but occasionally I’ll drink one. I do like my tea and coffee!

  2. Apparently, they had a booth at Origins this year. Friends bought… a lot of tea.

    1. I’d have bought more if I could have afforded it!

  3. I tried an experiment a couple of years ago — distilling liquid smoke from lavender.
    I love the flavor lavender smoke imparts to chicken on the barbecue grill, so I wanted to have a supply for stuff I wasn’t grilling.
    It worked very well when I used fresh lavender stems, but not so much with dried.

    1. This makes sense. The dried will burn too hot and fast. The green should smoulder and smoke better.

      1. Yup. And the water vapor entrains the compounds responsible for the smoky flavor. I think the water vapor also keeps the temperature lower so the aromatics are less likely to be destroyed by the heat.
        Anyway, it was fun to do, and probably worth trying on other herbs and woods.